“I wake up every day, right here, right in Punxsutawney,
and it’s always February 2nd, and there's nothing I can do about it.”
– Phil Connors (Bill Murray), Groundhog Day
So many small business owners are like Bill Murray in that fantastic movie. They are stuck, doing the same thing and making the same mistakes, over and over, and thinking there is nothing they can do about it.
The good news: Like Murray’s character, there actually is something you can do about it.
You have to learn your lessons.
There are all sorts of things business owners do that get them stuck in a time loop:
Not changing your marketing: Typically, when someone starts a business, they learn a few marketing tricks. It could be a Facebook ad campaign, or a stall at the local Saturday Market, or attending a regular networking event, etc.
Whatever the case, discovering a strategy that works is marketing gold because it allows you to live the dream.
Until it doesn’t.
What Groundhog Day’s Phil Connors learned, and what we must learn, is that doing the same thing again gets stale. Not only do you as the marketer get bored, but more importantly, so do your customers.
Marketing campaigns have a shelf life, and woe to small business owner who waits too long to realize it. In that case, their customers will be like “Phil, Phil Connors?” when he sees Ned Ryerson for the 119th day in a row.
Not firing employees . . . or customers: Yes, we all have people in our business lives who are, shall we say, challenging. And yes, loyalty is good. But again, until it is not.
Employees who don’t pull their weight can cost you a lot of profit and customers. Bored and under-achieving teammates are a drag on the business and shouldn’t be the norm if they create a negative time loop.
By the same token, we all know the customer who demands too much time and who takes too much effort. Yes, we like their business, but the truth is, it is often far better to cut ties with the cumbersome client.
But fret not; like the universe, business abhors a vacuum and the time you free up will be taken up by more useful ventures.
Not getting rid of the clutter: Aside from troubling clients and employees, there is other deadwood that doesn’t really serve us.
- That room full of stuff
- That perpetually messy desk
Clutter, in whatever form it takes, is a sign that fresh ideas are needed.
Sticking with old systems: Yes, we all get used to doing things a certain way, but one of the joys of having a small business these days is that there are so many great tools designed to make our business lives easier, to help small businesses look and act big.
An aging culprit could be:
- Some analogue filing or inventory system from another century, or
- A way-out-of-date computer or software system
Whatever the perpetrator, it is wise to reboot and update.
So, while yes, Groundhog Day the movie is very funny and even profound, Groundhog Day the life is not. The good news is that learning a few lessons and making a few simple changes can get you out of a tired loop. The bad news is that you won’t end up with the charming Andie McDowell at your side, but hey, at least you won’t be doing the time warp again (or mixing your metaphors!)
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss.
Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned. All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith.
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